Category Archives: Dining

Waves of changes at East Coast Park

EXCITEMENT rippled through the waters of the former East Coast Park lagoon in 2006 when it transformed into Singapore’s first cable ski park.

Passers-by would gather to gasp at wakeboarders and water- skiers as they performed flips and the occasional wipeout.

Today, the waves of change are lapping once more at the edges of the former lagoon.

Last November, the Ski360° Cableski Park was closed after eight years. The site has a new operator and is being renovated to become an upgraded cable ski facility, said Mr Chia Seng Jiang, director of parks at the National Parks Board (NParks). The date of completion has not been confirmed.

Change is a constant at East Coast Park, Singapore’s most popular beach park with more than seven million visitors a year, and the biggest at 185ha.

Well-loved places in the park have come and gone, with many refurbishments since the park opened in the 1970s.

Mr Alwi Hassan, 56, a rigger who has visited the park since he was young, said: “The facilities have improved for sure, but I miss the old McDonald’s.” The eatery, which opened in 1982 and closed in 2012, was one of the rare drive-through McDonald’s outlets here and an iconic meeting point.

In March, Red House Seafood, a fixture at the East Coast Seafood Centre for the past 30 years, closed to make way for a landscaped lawn. Also gone from the centre are No Signboard Seafood and Fisherman’s Village, whose leases have expired. A new eatery, Enak Enak Hong Kong Tea House, opened in April.

Mr Sunny Goh, 54, manager of Red House Seafood, said: “There were eight restaurants when the centre first opened in 1985, and we did well through the 80s and 90s with many tourists, but the crowds thinned by about 35 per cent in the past two years.”

He added: “These days, I still walk around the area and have nice memories of customers enjoying their meals at Red House. But I accept that this is over.”

It is not just eating places, but sports facilities like the former Marine Bowling alley at Marine Cove are missed by some as well.

Student Pareen Chaudhari, 18, said: “I miss the old bowling alley. My friends would meet there to celebrate our birthdays.”

Student Mohammad Rizuan, 22, said: “When I was younger, East Coast Park was a lot more natural. Now, it has become a mall with trees and grass in between instead of a park with the occasional shop and convenience store.”

However, NParks said park users need not fret about the loss of green spaces. Mr Chia said enhancements at Marine Cove include more open green spaces for visitors, a playground and a mix of dining and recreational facilities. These are slated to be completed in the middle of next year.

A new development already open is Parkland Green, which has eateries, cafes and retail spaces on a 4ha plotconverted from the Parkland Golf Driving Range.

Mr Raj Patro, owner of Patro’s Sports Bar and Restaurant, said: “NParks has done a good job at Parkland Green in choosing a good mix of tenants that complement each other. Our business has been growing every day.”

He welcomes the upcoming amenities and businesses in East Coast. “The more the merrier – there is an ample market here.”

Hawkers at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village are also unfazed, saying their business has generally not been affected by the new developments. “We have a strong base of regular customers who keep us going,” said Madam Harlina Haron, 42, owner of the famous Haron Satay.

But other businesses, like those at Big Splash, felt less optimistic. The former water theme park built in 1977 saw incoming traffic rise threefold after it was redeveloped in 2007 as a lifestyle hub, said its general manager, Mr Gino Koh. But since the opening of Parkland Green last September, business has taken a hit.

“Our vehicle volume has decreased by about 20 to 30 per cent since their opening. This is probably because our parking is chargeable while theirs is free at the moment,” he added. Big Splash’s current lease also expires towards the end of next year.

“We really hope our lease can be extended, upon which we will further refurbish Big Splash to be more competitive,” said Mr Koh.

The new developments have brought uncertainty for some, as well as the loss of dearly held landmarks for many. But some people welcome the changes.

Mrs Linda Chia, 54, a housewife who walks in the park once a week, said: “I like Parkland Green and its sprawling architecture. It’s much nicer than the usual clustered buildings in Singapore.”

Housewife Yvonne Cheong, 44, a mother of two, said: “The park these days is a lot more family-oriented. You can rent many different types of bikes – the four-wheel bike makes it a lot easier for families with young children to cycle.”

Despite its changing face, the park retains its allure for visitors of varying ages and interests.

A 62-year-old retiree, who gave his name only as Mr Latif, has been going there on weekends to fish for the last 30 years.

“It’s quiet here and there is a strong sense of camaraderie. Everyone minds his own business until someone catches a big fish, then people will go to help him with it,” he said.

For kiteboarding instructor Vincent Lam, 48, the park is where he goes to do kiteboarding, which combines paragliding, wakeboarding and windsurfing, especially during the monsoon season. “There are only two places in Singapore where you can do this because of the wind direction,” he said, adding that Changi Beach Park is the other place.

As student Keertikaa Manogarann, 13, summed up: “You can do so many things here – cycling, rollerblading, volleyball. It’s great.

Long-time East Coast seafood joint to go

After almost 30 years in its current seaside location, Red House Seafood at East Coast Seafood Centre will be gone by March 25, when its lease expires.

It is the only remaining tenant of Block 1204, which is set to be demolished in April. The other two blocks are not affected.

The move is to create more open space in the park, said the National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the centre.

“To enhance (East Coast Park’s) coastal identity, NParks strives to make available green spaces with sea views where possible,” said its director of parks Chia Seng Jiang in response to queries. “Block 1204 will be removed to create more greenery and open spaces for public use and enjoyment, with a sea view.”

The move is part of continuous efforts to improve the park and its amenities, he added.

The McDonald’s outlet at Marine Cove was another park landmark that closed, in 2012.

The East Coast branch is one of three Red House Seafood outlets, with the other two located in Robertson Quay and Prinsep Street.

The original restaurant was established in 1976 in its eponymous red house in Upper East Coast Road. It moved to East Coast Parkway 10 years later.

Chilli crab and lobster noodles are among its specialities.

The Straits Times understands that Red House Seafood has no immediate plans to open another outlet to replace the East Coast one. The management could not be reached for comment.

One of those who will miss the East Coast branch is retiree Simon Kee, 66. He visits East Coast Seafood Centre only once or twice a year, but whenever he does so, he always eats at Red House Seafood. “Of course I feel sad,” he said, when told of the impending closure. “The food here is good.”

Of the seafood centre’s three blocks, Block 1204 is set farther back from the shore. After it is demolished, those wanting seafood by the coast can still visit Long Beach or Jumbo Seafood.

“Access to these outlets will remain open at all times, where park users can continue to enjoy dining by the seafront,” said Mr Chia.

For retiree Peter Tan, 60, that will suffice. He visits the centre a few times a year with friends, and the restaurant they choose depends on who is organising the meeting. “I don’t really have a particular one I like,” he said.

Long-time East Coast seafood joint to go

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OneKM mall opens today at Tanjong Katong

UOL Group, which is officially opening its newest mall OneKM this Sunday, said it has garnered close to 93 per cent of pre-commitment lease for the mall at a time when retailers and restaurateurs are facing a challenging time given a manpower crunch and rising cost pressures.

More than 70 per cent of shops are open now. The mall is expected to be fully operating next month. According to UOL, this is the largest shopping mall in the up-and-coming decentralised commercial hub in Paya Lebar.

The addition of the mall to the group’s portfolio provides another avenue of recurring income and will raise its retail portfolio by 50 per cent in terms of net lettable area.

UOL Group president (property) Liam Wee Sin said he sees the mall as a “catalyst” in Paya Lebar Central amid the lack of new retail supply in the east and expects it “to replicate the success” of the group’s niche shopping malls in Novena, namely United Square and Velocity@Novena Square.

OneKM is also expected to enjoy strong catchment of residents in the 244-unit Katong Regency, the sold-out condo project on top of the mall, when the condo is completed.

Sitting on a freehold site that previously housed the Lion City Hotel and the adjoining Hollywood Theatre, OneKM – located just one kilometre away from the Paya Lebar MRT station – has a net lettable area of more than 200,000 sq ft and more than 150 shops.

“We worked closely with our tenants to see how we can improve productivity to overcome the manpower issue facing local retailers and restaurateurs,” Mr Liam said. This has led to the introduction of new concepts that are less labour intensive, particularly the first centralised kitchen for three restaurants within a shopping mall.

Home-grown Chinese restaurant chain The Paradise Group is opening a “Paradise Dynasty” outlet and two concept eateries “Para Thai” and “Beauty in The Pot”, which serve Thai food and hot pots respectively.

Paradise Group CEO Eldwin Chua told reporters that having a centralised kitchen helped reduce its manpower needs for the three restaurants from 45 to 28 staff.

Mr Liam pointed out that some 30 per cent of the shop space in OneKM is occupied by F&B outlets, 60 per cent by specialty retail and 10 per cent by enrichment schools.

The mall counts Cold Storage and Food Junction as its anchor tenants, which took up 15 per cent of its space. There is also a mix of international brands like Uniqlo, Esprit and Adidas as well as niche local brands. More than half the tenants at OneKM are existing tenants of UOL’s malls.

Meanwhile, the group is set to launch a nearly 800-unit condo project at Upper Paya Lebar in the first quarter of next year, followed by another condo project launch on the site along Prince Charles Crescent in the second half of next year.

Mr Liam said the group is under no pressure to cut prices at Riverbank@Fernvale in Sengkang to move sales ahead of the two upcoming launches next year.

Seventy Saint Patrick and Riverbank@Fernvale, its two condo projects launched this year, are 72 per cent and 50 per cent sold respectively, while Thomson Three that was launched in September last year is 96 per cent sold.

Russians are coming to Singapore in droves

More Russians are choosing Singapore as a vacation destination, and those who come tend to splurge on high-end accommodation and luxury goods.

Figures from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) show that between January and August this year, almost 63,500 people from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which includes several countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, had visited Singapore.

That was a 20 per cent year-on-year increase.

The Straits Times understands that most of these visitors were from Russia and, in particular, the capital city of Moscow.

Last year, the average Russian visitor was 36 years old, stayed here for four days and spent $1,456, making this group one of the highest spenders among all visitors here.

“Singapore has always been part of the Asian itinerary for Russians who are increasingly interested in the region,” said STB’s area director for Russia and Eastern Europe, Mr Raymond Lim.

Their visits here are usually paired with trips to places in the region, such as Thailand or Malaysia.

The Russians tend to be repeat visitors, according to travel agency Global Singapore, which helps 20 per cent of all CIS visitors to Singapore apply for visas.

The agency’s managing director, Ms Oksana Scott, said an increasing number also come here for medical services such as dental or cosmetic surgery.

The number of Russian visitors typically rises further from now until March, when they escape the harsh winter at home by travelling to South-east Asia. Russians also enjoy a nearly two-week-long New Year break, which allows many to take vacations farther from home.

For those who come to Singapore, they like to travel in style and prefer high-end hotels.

The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, for instance, has seen a 67 per cent jump in Russian guests over the past year.

They spend on hotel suites, dining and alcohol, as well as luxury services such as spa treatments, butler-drawn baths and limousine transfers, said Ms Nathalyn Fong, the hotel’s director of public relations and marketing communications.

The rising number of Russian visitors has prompted hotels here to offer services that would make their guests feel more at home.

Four Seasons Hotel in Orchard, for example, has Russian-speaking employees, while Marina Mandarin recently introduced Russian vodkas at its lounge.

Russian visitors are also fans of luxury shopping. Italian luxury menswear company Uomo Group, which has six boutiques at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, said the Russians are willing to spend on quality goods and good service.

“They are carefree spenders and will buy whatever looks nice on them and fits well,” said its chief executive, Mr Johnny Manglani.

All the directors at the group speak Russian and are trained in customer service in Moscow, Mr Manglani added.

Ms Ksenya Smirnova, who is from St Petersburg, visited Singapore for her honeymoon last February. She said it was Singapore’s reputation as a “country of the future, with modern architecture and no garbage” that drew her here.

She was here for three days after visiting Malaysia, and stayed at Marina Bay Sands hotel.

“It is a really modern country. I can imagine myself living there,” said the 26-year-old housewife. “Will I visit Singapore again? Yes, why not? Three days are not enough to explore Singapore.”

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Joo Chiat/Katong Trail — The Peranakan Heritage

Sitting adjacent to the Geylang district is the Joo Chiat/Katong enclave, which traditionally has been the preserve of the Peranakans, middle class locals and the wealthy merchant class. The Peranakans are descendants of 17th century Chinese and Indian immigrants who married non-Muslim natives from the Malay Archipelago.

They settled in several parts throughout Singapore, but their legacy is best showcased in the the Joo Chiat district. Named after wealthy Chinese landowner Chew Joo Chiat, this area is dotted by colourful shophouses and homes that are adorned by sculpted facades of animal reliefs and hand-crafted ceramic tiles. In fact, back in the day, Chew himself built houses and grew plantations in this district as well.
Katong shophouse
The junction of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road can be suitably described as the heart of Katong. Here you’ll find coffeshops selling local delicacies like tau kwa pau (minced pork in fried tofu), ba chang (rice dumplings) and the famous Katong Laksa, which are white rice noodles in a spicy coconut milk broth. Katong is a culinary wonderland with its main road (East Coast Road) dotted with a healthy variety of excellent local and international cuisine.

The olden day opulence and charm of the place remains intact with traditionally Peranakan houses like Katong Antique House and Rumah Bebe. Both are great places to pick up a Peranakan outfit, snacks and homeware, and are must-visit establishments that help you learn more about Peranakan culture.

For accommodation around the area, visit Le Peranankan, a boutique hotel housed in a row of conserved shophouses. Located at 400 East Coast Road, it features authentic Peranakan design, with rooms crafted in Nyonya and Baba styles.
Katong also has numerous cafés and old-world coffeeshops like Chin Mee Chin and excellent culinary fixtures such as Sin Hoi Sai coffeeshop and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, all within a short walking distance of one another. Immerse yourself in Peranakan culture on your visit to Katong and Joo Chiat, and also enjoy its wealth of good food and cultural heritage.

A gastronomic tour of Katong-Joo Chiat by 4 Japanese pretties

An interesting video to bring you what Katong is like in a visual effect via a one-minute-plus video. Brought to you by 4 pretty Japanese ladies. Welcome to Singapore and Katong!

Geylang Serai Still Going Strong

Pasar Geylang Serai

It began life as a simple wet market under a zinc roof in 1964, a tumultuous year marked by racial riots. But Geylang Serai Market, which celebrated its 50th birthday recently, has prospered along with Singapore’s growth and continues to thrive despite competition from supermarkets.

Never quiet even on weekdays, it hosts a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd on weekends, which see 10,000 visitors a day on average, when people from across Singapore visit to get anything from spices to herbs or a good meal.

When The Straits Times visited one recent weekday, the two-storey market, which has around 360 stalls, was a bustle of activity as early as 7am.

Chinese fishmongers, displaying stingray, selar and other seafood freshly transported from the Jurong Fishery Port, speak fluent Malay as they serve customers.

At the vegetable section, bright green strings of petai, a Malay bean, hang from the stall fronts. Sitting in boxes are bakawali – a herb resembling a rope with thorns used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.

Madam Azizah Hashim, 59, a nurse, comes fortnightly from Hougang to buy ulam rajah, a Malay herb eaten with sambal belacan, a spicy sauce made with chilli and shrimp paste.

“I tried looking for it in Chinese wet markets in Hougang, but the sellers didn’t know what it was. This is one of the few places where I can get it,” she said.

After shopping for groceries, she wanders up to the second storey, where a multitude of baju kurung and headscarves lie in wait.

She rounds off her trip with breakfast in one of the 60-plus Malay food stalls in the market, offering some of the best nasi padang and lontong in town.

“From clothes to food, there’s everything I need,” she said.

That is why Singapore’s only pork-free market is still a crowd-puller. It has everything under one roof.

Madam Wati Ridduan, 40, says it is one of the few markets where peeled and blended tapioca for making kueh can be bought. She, like many others, was introduced to Pasar Geylang Serai, as it is known in Malay, by her mother when she was young.

The place has turned into something of a meeting point. “I’ve even bumped into primary school friends who come from Jurong to buy stuff here,” said the data entry specialist.

But Pasar Geylang Serai got off to a tough start in 1964.

Two riots in the area meant that curfews were imposed and the prices of food skyrocketed, according to anecdotes collected in Pasar Geylang Serai: 50 Years Of Continuity Amidst Change, a book recently published by the Pasar Geylang Serai Merchants’ Association (PGSMA).

But Pasar Geylang Serai’s growing popularity saw it outlive the neighbouring Joo Chiat and Changi markets, which closed down in the 70s due to fires.

Former Geylang Serai resident Abdul Rahman Suradi, 59, remembers how Hari Raya – calculated based on sightings of the moon – arrived earlier than expected in the 1970s. “We heard the announcement on the radio and shopkeepers were shocked. They rushed back to open their stalls. Housewives bought what they could; it was a mad rush to prepare for the Hari Raya feast the next day,” said the owner of a food stall in Marine Parade.

As the Geylang Serai area further developed, the market was rebuilt in 2006 to cater to the growing neighbourhood. Its current premises, completed just five years ago, is aptly shaped like a Malay kampung house.

“It’s much cleaner compared to the old market,” said vegetable seller Ina Pakwan, 56. “There are partitions between our stalls so we don’t have to squeeze.”

While shoppers who come to do their daily marketing are mostly aged above 40, young people also visit the market and its surrounding area at least once a year for the massive Hari Raya bazaar.

“It’s just so colourful. You see festive lighting, baju kurung and food everywhere,” said 22-year-old student Jaffar Hussain. “There are other bazaars in Woodlands and Jurong but it doesn’t feel like Hari Raya if you don’t go to Geylang Serai.”

In recent years, the market has had its share of setbacks, in particular, the mass food poisoning case in 2009. Two people died and more than 150 fell ill after eating contaminated Indian rojak from the market.

That occurred when the market was housed in a temporary site as its new premises were being built. Three months later, Pasar Geylang Serai moved into its current $18.2 million building, helping business to bounce back.

“People wanted to see the building. We have been providing reliable services for years – so our business recovered quickly,” said PGSMA honorary treasurer Anwardeen Sulaiman, 57, a vegetable stall owner in the market.

Now, the future looks brighter with upgrading in its vicinity.

On the cards is a new civic centre – Wisma Geylang Serai – which will house a community club and Malay cultural activities. It will be completed in 2017 and built in place of the Malay Village, which closed down in 2011 due to bad business. New walkways will also link Pasar Geylang Serai to the new civic centre and Paya Lebar MRT station.

Many welcomed the changes.

As Mr Anwardeen said: “The gotong royong (kampung) spirit is strong in Pasar Geylang Serai. It’s been 50 years but I hope this cultural gem doesn’t fade away.”

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Dakota Crescent – Where time stands still

A SWANKY new National Stadium rises in Kallang. Two years ago, the nearby Goodman Arts Centre opened its doors to a hip young crowd. One street away, a new condominium has been built on the site of Housing Board flats.

But amid these changes, time has passed by Dakota Crescent, one of Singapore’s oldest HDB estates, located off Old Airport Road. The 17 blocks of low-rise flats have hardly changed since being built in 1958.

No wonder, then, that their retro architecture and old-school playground make them a hot spot for photographers and artists.

“It’s rare to see such old flats,” said Mr Renalto Wong, 25, who was there on a Sunday, sketching a 54-year-old provision shop that recently closed down. “There’s something comfortable and nostalgic about this place – it’s almost like a hideout.”

The estate was named after the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, a model of plane that landed at Kallang Airport in the past.

Built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) – the forerunner of the HDB – most of the 600 flats are leased to low-income families under the board’s public rental scheme. The flats are occupied mostly by elderly residents, who pay as low as $26 a month for a one-room flat and $44 a month for a two-room flat.

Scrap-goods buyer Ng Guan Swee, 68, has lived in Dakota Crescent since it was built.

“There was a fire in Cecil Street in the 50s and our house got burned down, so we were allocated a house in Dakota Crescent,” he recalled in Mandarin.

At that time, Mr Ng’s grandmother had bound feet – as was the custom in her day – and the family requested a ground-level unit. Theirs, at Block 20, has been home to Mr Ng and his sister for more than 50 years.

“When we came in 1958, there were no streetlights,” said Mr Ng, sitting amid old laser disc players, hi-fi sets and other vintage items in his home. He remembers traversing the dark streets to go to the nearby Guillemard shophouses for snacks.

But in the 1960s, as more families moved in, a market sprang up opposite the estate.

“Almost every unit in this estate was occupied. Neighbours knew one another and our doors were always open,” said Mr Ng. “Those were good times.”

Madam Yong Fong Keow, 64, who moved there in the 60s, also misses such communal life.

Gesturing at a new condominium, she said in Mandarin: “There was a bakery there. At 3pm or 4pm, we would smell the aroma of freshly baked bread. That’s when you grabbed some money and a neighbour and went to buy bread.”

But now, communal life in Dakota is a shadow of what it used to be. Only about 60 per cent of the units are occupied. Of a row of four shops, only two – both Chinese medicine clinics – remain.

Neighbours started moving out in the 90s, some to live with their children.

Then, a new wave of tenants moved there in 2005 when the HDB leased empty units to private operators, who, in turn, rented them to foreign workers.

“You could hear Thai accents, Filipino accents and Chinese accents around the neighbourhood, it was like a mini United Nations,” Mr Ng joked.

While some residents got used to these new faces, others did not.

Madam Amy De Silva, a long-time resident in her 60s, said: “Some of them were rowdy and you could hear them coming home late at night. Their living habits just didn’t suit ours.”

The HDB’s agreement with the managing agent ended last year and the foreign workers have since moved out of the Dakota estate.

However, at Block 32, an empty unit is littered with cardboard boxes and clothes. Mr Y.Y Goh, 57, a resident, said foreign workers live there but they do not disturb anyone.

One empty unit in Block 12, though, has become a party spot for teens. “They drink, eat, smoke, and mess the place up,” said a resident who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang.

When The Straits Times visited, there were drink cans, chip packets and cardboard boxes in the unit.

In another vacant unit in Block 16, graffiti was scrawled on the walls. Some residents suspect teenagers sniffed glue there – some were spotted going into the unit with bags over their noses.

The HDB said that it has received complaints about crime and mischief in the area and informed the police.

But Dakota, now somewhat of a ghost town, may soon be more crowded again. The HDB said it is offering empty units as interim housing to needy families awaiting new flats. They were expected to start moving in progressively from last month. It has not indicated any long-term plans to develop the estate, however.

Although Dakota has been dubbed an “old people’s estate”, the few young faces who live there have no complaints.

“It’s a five-minute walk from Dakota and Mountbatten MRT stations, we have the Old Airport Road hawker centre and I hang out with friends at the Kallang Leisure Park nearby,” said Mr Kartigesan Saravanan, 20, who has lived in Dakota for the past 13 years. “It’s really a good location.”

Indeed, resident Bill Koh, who is in his 50s, said: “So many new buildings are coming up around us, it’s hard not to worry what might happen.

“People always come here and say how nice this estate is. There’s lots of green space between these old flats. It’s a pity if one of Singapore’s oldest estates is gone – maybe they should consider conserving it.”
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Flashback: Bedok revamp

Tenants of Bedok Point (above) are feeling the heat of competition from the new Bedok Mall. -- ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Straits Time: Dec 2013

SINGAPORE’S largest estate Bedok is in the middle of a makeover, and residents are cheering the move, saying they hope their estate can finally shed its jaded image.

The centrepiece of the transformation is Bedok Mall, which opened last week.

And the estate will be enlivened further by upcoming amenities including an airconditioned bus interchange, a town plaza for community events with a heritage corner within, and a new hawker centre with an adjoining multi-storey carpark.

Long-time residents The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the changes, with nary a hint of nostalgia for the cosy charms of Bedok’s past.

Tenants of Bedok Point are feeling the heat of competition from the new Bedok Mall (above). Construction of a condominium which sits above Bedok Mall is still taking place.

Bedok is Singapore’s largest estate with around 300,000 residents. ”It’s more convenient and lively now,” said housewife Loh Voon Keow, 72.

”We have a wet market, clinics, banks and four supermarkets, including the new FairPrice Finest at Bedok Mall.”

Thanks to the new facilities, her Bedok three-room flat is now worth more than $400,000, double the price she bought it for, 14 years ago, she added.

Civil service officer Ong Gim Chwee, 33, who has lived in Bedok for 32 years, said: ”Bedok Mall helps to change the image of Bedok. People tend to think that it’s an old area.”

At the popular Block 207, New Upper Changi Road hawker centre, tenants said they have also benefited from the new mall.

”I’ve had better business because workers from the mall will eat here. The food inside (the mall) is expensive,” said Madam Yoong Lam Heng, 54, who runs Tian Seng drinks stall.

The hawker centre itself will also be undergoing a revamp. Next year, most tenants will move to a new and bigger hawker centre, which will be built next to the current one.

The latter will be demolished to make way for the town plaza. Tenants of popular stalls such as Teo’s Noodle and Inspirasi Stall will be making the move.

”Of course I’ll miss this place. I’m not sure if business will be as good at the new hawker centre,” said Madam Lee Siew Feng, 43, who has been running a nasi lemak stall at the centre for 19 years.

But at Bedok Point, a shopping centre just a five-minute walk away from the much larger Bedok Mall, tenants are feeling the heat of competition.

The four-storey mall, managed by Frasers Centrepoint Malls, opened in 2010 and is about a third of the size of Bedok Mall.

Business at Manhattan Fish Market has dropped by at least 20 per cent since Bedok Mall opened, said outlet manager Dalson Chui, 26.

”Big players such as Yoshinoya and Subway have moved out. There are hoardings around the mall because some tenants are renovating,” he said. ”Some customers think the mall is closed because of the hoardings.”

At another tenant, Gong Cha, daily takings have fallen from $1,300 to about $800, said Ms My Linh, a 26-year-old worker at the bubble-tea shop.

But Ms Valerie Tang, owner of plus-sized female clothing store BignBeautiful, is optimistic that the crowds will return.

”The crowds will definitely go to places that are new,” the 38-year-old said.

”The management (of Bedok Point) has assured us that the new stores here will be unique and attractive.”

And Bedok Point has plans to fight back.

A spokesman for Bedok Point said new eateries, such as halal Japanese restaurant Hei Sushi and Korean barbecue restaurant SsikSin, are setting up shop.

Next year, hair removal salon Musee Platinum and Tokutokuya, a shop selling Japanese-inspired products for $2 each, will also open at the mall.

While Bedok residents cheered the new amenities, some, like Mr Wu Kai Cheng, 30, lamented that there are no plans for a new cinema.

After the curtains inside Princess Cinema fell for the last time in 2008, movie buffs in the estate, which used to boast three cinemas, had to go further afield to catch a flick.

Mr Wu, a sales account manager, said he has to pay more for cab fare if he were to catch a midnight movie either in nearby Tampines or in the city area.

”That means I have to pay about $30 to $40 to watch a midnight show.”

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